Beyond the Green-Eyed Monster
Last weekend I went to a panel question-and-answer session geared toward newbies in the kink Scene. And the only question to specifically address non-monogamy was, "How do you deal with jealousy?" Which is the same first question I've gotten from most of my monogamous friends, and the same question that dominates a healthy percentage of polyamory discussion groups. It's an obvious question and an extremely legitimate one. But I don't understand how jealousy merits such be-all-end-all importance.
I don't pretend to be somehow immune to jealousy; of course I've been jealous of lover's other lovers before, and it's a miserable feeling. But then I have two options, which are: (1) Deal with it; or (2) Tell my husband and boyfriend that I want to be monogamous, in which case I would have to break up with at least one of them. And in the last three and a half years, there has never been a split-second that I honestly thought Option #2 could be less heartbreaking or melodramatic for me than dealing with jealousy.
How do I deal with jealousy? Well, how do I deal with sadness, or with anger, or frustration, or insecurity, or any other unpleasant emotion? My best jealousy-coping strategies suspiciously resemble the generalized coping strategies I've been using since I was fourteen and single: I rant in a private handwritten diary where it won't hurt anyone; I eat ice cream; I watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sometimes I go for walks or sing karaoke. The Ethical Slut and Opening Up and non-monogamy message boards are full of great advice specifically addressing jealousy. But it's just an emotion like sadness or anger, and I don't feel a need to treat it that specially. It also fades over time, as I develop more experience with my lovers being with other people and then coming back to me.
In my experience, jealousy isn't the worst and certainly isn't the most interesting hurdle to polyamorous relationships. Society's prejudice stings too, as I learned from my poly friends fighting for custody of their children, and learned first-hand when my mother told me that my husband deserves a woman who can be faithful to him. My lovers' romantic difficulties and break-ups with other people also sting, because they make my lovers sad. Overall, most of the time, all the love and sex in my life make me pretty happy.
The discussion of how to deal with jealousy will go on, and of course it should. But there's really more to non-monogamy than this obsession with jealousy.